Judgment Tax

by Gloria Simeon

Our City Council, as it is, as it has been, does not truly represent the demographic of our village. It represents mostly outsiders. With the exception of one, these are people who are not from around here. It is on us for allowing this to happen. My issue is, for lack of a better term, what I can only call, “Judgment Taxes”.

On the 1% sales tax per ounce on sugared beverages, I have to go back and think of how these other “judgment’ taxes became imposed on us.

The tobacco tax was enacted based on the claims by the then Mayor, that the City of Bethel was burdened by the costs of tobacco use throughout the Delta. Claimed that it was their civic duty to force changes in our behavior by taxing all tobacco products.

At the same time, political machinations were being played out by the President/CEO of YKHC and our senator to finesse a way for the State of Alaska to fund a major, if not all, cost of this multi-million dollar BATH project. This pool that has yet to pay for itself and continues to be a financial burden to the City taxpayers. The City Council at that time was heavily represented by YKHC officials, doctors, spouses of doctors and employees.

Is there a connection?

Then when Bethel went back on booze for that miserable time, the council must have been in pure heaven with all this money; a windfall of sin taxes to supplement the pool.

The public drank the koolaid and did not question the actions of the council. If they did, it fell on deaf ears. Why bother. They aren’t us, right?

Now, it’s getting too much. Too much judgment. Too much interference, too much lack of understanding and sensitivity. The lack of respect by the health corporation employees for this village they reside in and failure of YKHC to properly sensitize their employees about where they are and who’s land they stand on. This is not how you treat the people you serve, not how you conduct yourselves as visitors.

Is the next campaign going to Aniak, St. Mary’s, Hooper Bay and Toksook Bay to infiltrate their councils and bring these judgments and taxes to the villages? What is next on the list of judgments; potato chip, cookies, candy bars? Where do we draw the line on what actions we can tolerate by these well intentioned folks?

My roots are deep in this land, the blood of the ancestors that walked this land before me for countless millennia, flows through me like the river. I cannot stand meekly by, while this is happening in my village, to me and my People, again.

There are other, more positive ways to deal with the problem of dental caries, poor hygiene and lack of access to care. Passing judgment and taxes is negative and self-serving.

A person from Napaskiak commented that their family had pretty much quit drinking sugared drinks.

YKHC has the results of a research project conducted in villages where a DHAT, (Dental Health Aide Technician) was available. I believe Napaskiak was one of those villages. Their own research has shown, conclusively that access, education, prevention and intervention are the way to deal with these issues. Giving people the information they need to make good decisions. The results were beyond the expectations of the researchers and the YKHC Human Studies Committeet. I was on the YKHC Human Studies Committee at that time. I am disappointed that those results as well as the results of countless other human research studies are not being shared within the organization and with the customer/owners of the health corporation, of this region, who are the subjects of this on-going research. Providers, especially need this baseline understanding. They would benefit from this knowledge before making judgments and feeling that they must become crusaders when the solution is already here. There appears to be some issues with communication and transparency.

Based on past history, I begin to wonder what agenda is going to be pushed when YKHC employees run for council. And sadly, these people are not always around to witness the long-term ripple effect and results of their “well intended” actions.

I also question why the Parks and Recreation Committee is burdened with solving the on-going problem of financing the BATH. I would think this would be the purview of the Finance Committee. Perhaps consider an ad-hoc committee should be detailed to this dilemma.

I further suggest that the Parks and Recreation Committee and Planning Commission work together to find ways where people can recreate amidst the construction of these mega apartment complexes coming up all over town with no thought of where children are going to play. In fact, I worry that there is too much new helter-skelter construction of these multi-apartment complexes with little thought to the long term development of our community.

Entire neighborhoods need to be considered before approving the construction of these buildings. Parking not only for vehicles, but for the recreation vehicles that new comers are fond of acquiring, is a must.

The apartment building on first road housing is an example of failure of the Planning Commissions look at the big picture.

We, the citizens of the City of Bethel and the Nation of the Orutsararmiut Traditional Native Council must work together to make this a place where all People are treated equally and considered when decisions must be made. Please do not marginalize us in your judgments and penalize us. Come to us for understanding and let us walk together with the same vision for the future of our community.

With respect,

Gloria Simeon, a Native woman, born before there was even a City of Bethel and raised by this village.

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